Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Patrick Stone had been frankly over-whelmed by the beauty and elegance of Puissant Chateau. The staff seemed cordial, even relieved, at the prospect of having a ‘normal’ owner as opposed to a heavy metal rocker complete with groupies. He toured every room, but fell in love with the library. For an hour he just sat in one large leather chair imagining a life in this home. Francois Boule, the agent, understood human behavior well enough to see that Stone was hooked. He busied himself with business online on his laptop until his potential buyer finally agreed to stay in town for the night.

Stone spent the rest of Wednesday relaxing in one of Monaco’s finer hotels, day-dreaming about life in this seemingly idyllic country. He turned off his cell phone he didn’t read the papers – he didn’t watch the news. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean he tried to minimize all the events of the past ten days – and nearly succeeded. It all seemed so unreal. Surely, now that the inscription was safe at the British Museum all would be well. Finder’s keepers, after all. The British Museum is brimming with artifacts from other countries. The transaction was confidential, wasn’t it? And his money was protected in a Swiss bank, wasn’t it? And sealing Art West in the tomb – well, any prankster could be blamed for that. Who would know other than Raymond? And the incident with el Said – well, that was just an accident. A misunderstanding. I’m sure he’s recuperating just fine. And the manuscript fragments he would return those he didn’t need the money after all. All would be forgiven. By late Wednesday, Stone decided to become a home owner.

Stone returned to Chateau Puissant to meet with Francois at nine o’clock Thursday morning. Once again he sat down in his already favorite leather chair in the library – a library which had bookshelves two stories high complete with moving staircase on wheels. Trying to remain cool, Stone said to the agent,

“I am prepared not only to make an offer on the spot, but also to transfer the money.

My banker at Credit Lyonnais is awaiting your call to authorize the immediate transfer.”

“Very good, monsieur, and what would that offer be? This dream home is tres cher, to say the least,” smiled Francois wryly.

“I am prepared to offer two million in US dollars,” said Stone, his heart pounding.

“Yes, but my client needs a bit more. I am authorized to accept no less than $2.5 million and I will guarantee that the transaction can be completed swiftly and discretely. You may have the key today.”

Stone thought for a moment and concluded that he was so rich, it would be beneath his dignity to haggle. He heard himself say, “I agree.”

TrĂ©s bon. Shall we have a celebratory toast?” Francois turned, clapped his hands and the butler came at once.

S’il vous plait, two glasses of the best champagne in the cellar.”

The butler nodded and left to fetch a maid. Francois continued.

“Yes, this house comes complete with a wine cellar, and well stocked I might add. The last tenant, if I may say so, was a pig who drank only cold beer. He had no palate for wine, and so the cellar has for the last four years gone largely untouched. This is a special gift to you,” he said, as he popped a bottle of Moet et Chandon champagne.

The maid brought tall-stemmed dark blue glasses which were soon brimming with bubbly. “To a momentous decision,” smiled Francois.

Salut,” answered Stone feeling tipsy even before he took a sip.

“Now let us go to my office, sign the papers and make the calls to transfer your money. I must also tell you that in order to finish the business of the day we must visit the office of the duchy, and at the same time have you sign papers making you a resident of Monaco. Citizenship can be applied for, if desired, in another year.”

Stone was so numb by now that he simply followed along docile as a lamb. Hours of paperwork followed before he slowly drove back to Cannes in a daze. In the passenger seat lay a huge folder with paperwork claiming that Dr. Patrick Stone was now the proud owner of Chateau Puissant, Rue d’Rivoli, Monaco, 3PL 1XZ.

Thursday evening, after a wonderful meal and a glass of wine, Stone felt revived. Reviewing everything he had mulled over the night before, he decided to call Raymond for updates, and have him return the fragments to the tomb. No sense in being too greedy. The phone rang twice, and Grayson picked up. Avi Hoffner hovered in the background monitoring his recording equipment.

“Hello, this is Dr. Stone. I need to speak to Raymond.”

“Ray’s not here just now, but he left an important message for you. He wants to know your current address so he can send some kind of statues. I don’t know what statues he’s talkin’ about,” said Grayson, going along with the charade.

Stone replied, “I am surprised Raymond discussed the figurines with you. But in any case, I have decided not to have them sent. I wish to give Ray instructions on returning them.”

Grayson was frantic. This conversation was not going as planned. Hoffner just encouraged him to keep talking. “Well, Ray said the figurines came from The Three Arches. Is that where you want them to go?”

“No, no! Not at all. It’s far more complicated than that. I must speak with Raymond. When will he be home?” demanded Stone getting more than a little irritated and worried about the manuscript fragments.

“Relax man, Raymond’s been a busy boy lately. My roomie hasn’t been home much! But he sure has a bunch of stuff here he wants to send you. Where are you, if I can be so bold to ask?” replied Grayson with some creative flourishes.

“He can send my personal effects to my home in Tennessee – and business mail to Yale – he has the addresses! I have no desire to continue this conversation,” replied Stone rudely.

“Don’t have a cow, Dr. Stone. I’m just Grayson, the middle man. You two can work it out!” Grayson was still stalling the conversation while Hoffner traced the call. Stone, however, abruptly hung up.

What the trace revealed was an American cell phone number belonging to one Patrick Stone, not a location. Hoffner had gotten the entire conversation on tape, a conversation which clearly linked Stone to Simpson, to the statues, and to the papyri fragments. In other words, this was very damning evidence indeed for the inevitable trial. The snowball of justice had been pushed down the slope a bit.


Precisely at one o’clock London time, Wednesday afternoon, the phone rang at Oliver St. James’ office in the British Museum. Oliver’s secretary sang out, “Halloo, St. James’ office, how may I help?”

Sammy Cohen replied, “This is Professor Cohen of the IAA in Jerusalem.

I need to speak with Mr. St. James please, it is urgent.”

“He is in conference watching the news. Do I really need to fetch him at this moment or could he call you back?”

“We need to talk at once please,” insisted Sammy. There was about a five- minute silence on the line then finally St. James got to the phone.

“Hello, this is St. James. Is this indeed Professor Cohen of the IAA?” Sammy replied in the affirmative. “I presume you are calling about the Lazarus stone. We have just finished watching a BBC copy of your press conference. I can only say that I am more than a little mortified by these revelations. We had various experts authenticate the stone, albeit quickly, and we bought it from a known academic. We checked his past before dealing with him. In addition, we have here the bona fides that the stone is genuine and that he purchased the stone in 1972.”

“Well, unfortunately, your seller’s greed has led him to commit various crimes, not the least of which is lying to you by supplying forged documents. Very cheeky, as you would say.”

“Our press conference was Monday – you could have called us with a warning about what was to come. Your briefing was a bit challenging you realize. I will have to consult with our trustees and lawyers about what is to be done next. You are certain that the stone and its inscription are genuine – correct?”

“Absolutely,” insisted Sammy. “But yes, you are right about one thing.

We could have worked together on this. But this matter must be rectified as soon as possible.”

“Remember, the terms of the agreement included protecting the identify of the seller. Again, until I hear from our lawyers . . . .”

Sammy interrupted, “From our end, we believe the seller was Dr. Patrick Stone, or possibly an agent working for Stone. And our Dr. Stone would now be a millionaire, am I right?”

At that St. James actually laughed. “I can’t confirm or deny! But yes, the seller pocketed a tidy sum. We have insurance, of course. What we recoup is another matter. The insurance company will only cover so-called unrecoverable sums.”

Sammy pushed on. “It is imperative that we turn over the seller’s name to the authorities as soon as possible. I presume funds were wired directly into an account. Can those numbers be made available to the police soon, very soon?”

“Yes,” St. James promised. “The account numbers are with the confidential documents. But I will release them as soon as possible. And, I believe, the account was in a Swiss bank. That will pose some problems in terms of accessing the account and freezing the assets. But there was also some money wired to a Jerusalem bank.”

“As for the Jerusalem money we have already recovered it, and are prepared to send it along in exchange for the stone. I’m sure you will do your best,” said Sammy cordially. “I have no wish to spoil relations between our agencies. It is an unfortunate matter. One man nearly died, and another’s reputation has nearly been ruined. But when all is said and done, we have, I believe, a wealth of fabulous artifacts to share. Maybe at some point a tour will find its way to the British Museum!”

“That would be honorable end to a dishonorable beginning,” said St. James.

After hanging up, Sammy thought of something more. He knew Oliver St. James to be an honest man who, like himself, was coming to the end of his fine career. This would be a humiliating way for it to end. Perhaps he could convince the IAA to give St. James something in exchange for all his trouble. Perhaps it would help to rehabilitate the image of the IAA, if the IAA engaged in an act of pure generosity. Perhaps the IAA board would allow him to send the British Museum one of the smaller papyri found in the figurines. These fragments could be displayed proudly next to Codex Vaticanus in the manuscripts room. He would consult on this.

Sammy picked up the phone and called Grace. “I have now spoken with St. James and he really is crushed by the news. I am wondering if we can save face on both sides of the Channel, by allowing the British Museum to have one of the small pieces of the Lazarus papyri? What do you think?”

Grace was fine with the idea, “A peace offering! This might pave the way for improved relations between the British Museum and the Israeli Museums. May I suggest that the portion you send him is the little scroll that even Art has not looked at yet, the one with the story about the risen Jesus having breakfast at the sea with his disciples and Peter being restored to his role among the disciples. That is such a memorable story, only a few verses and one small piece of papyri, but enormously appreciated in countries of a Christian heritage.”

“I knew you would have a good idea about this one, and I am going to push the trustees to get that accomplished – after we sort out the rest of this mess.”

“Yes, Sammy, you are a good man,” said Grace quietly. And Wednesday was a good day for two countries.”


The press conference had indeed gone well, and Art could only imagine what the headlines would be in next morning’s papers. Grace and Sammy had returned to the IAA. Harry, Grayson and Art enjoyed lunch before splitting up for the day. Plans had already been made for an evening out on the town. Now, alone for the afternoon, and very tired, Art wandered the streets of Jerusalem being trailed by the equally weary Officer Shimon. The shop-keepers in the Cardo were raking in the tourist money despite the problems of late. Kahlil’s shop was open for the first time in many days, and several people were browsing. Art saw Hannah selling a priestly stole on which she herself had stitched some Christian emblems. That’s ecumenism, thought Art. “Mind if I pass through into the back.”

“By all means,” she said. “Our home is your home. Father will enjoying seeing you. But remember, he just got home Tuesday night.”

The little apartment in the back of the shop was indeed diminutive. There were two small bedrooms, really more like cubicles, a modest sized living area, a bathroom and a kitchen. This was home for Kahlil and Hannah. The living room was piled high with books in at least four different languages. Kahlil might be poor in property but he was rich in soul. Seeing Art come in, Kahlil tried to get up to give him the traditional greeting, but Art said, “Please, stay where you are. We want your wounds to heal, not reopen! How’s your head – inside and out!”

Kahlil laughed, “Ah yes, the bump is gone, but so is my memory still! I do dream of a shadowy figure – a familiar man – but not you, my friend, so don’t look so worried! But, tell me, how did the big press conference go? Was your rhetoric sharp and compelling? What do you think will come of this?”

“The Conference was a lot of fun, actually. I must admit it’s a bit of a power trip talking to the press like that. Now that we have thrown down the gauntlet there could be a fairly rapid series of events. Sammy will have his hands full dealing with the British Museum. He knows the director, Oliver St. James. I hope they can work together. If Patrick Stone can be found, I think we are heading for a blockbuster trial. Harry definitely wants to be involved. I wonder if Stone knows how much trouble he’s caused. Someday, I hope he realizes the mess he created.”

“Ensch-allah [as God wills].” said Kahlil. “My friend, once we get past the trial what is next for you? You lacked funds for this season anyway. It will likely be too late to start another dig this summer, and Hannah has no longer been able to keep from me that you received a huge sum of money which you then turned over to the police. Are you still a suspect?”

“You’re right, of course about the summer season of digging, but I plan to spend the rest of the summer studying the scroll, determining in what ways the text we have differs from the Gospel of John and in what ways the Greek text is just a translation of the original or paraphrase at least. This will keep me out of any more trouble! I am still a suspect, suspected of being a collaborator with Stone, I suppose. But enough of my exploits. You came home from the hospital when – Tuesday night?! That’s impressive! What does the doctor say?”

“Apparently, I was becoming too difficult to keep! The doctor – he gave up -- sent me home! He says rest and more rest, but that is all I have been doing lately. I yearn to do something meaningful before I start getting into mischief!”

“Do you think I could persuade you and Hannah to come with me to ‘Le Jazz Hot’ tonight? Do you even like jazz? Sammy, Grace and Harry are coming. I’ve already reserved a table for supper and the early show. We promise to have you home before ten.”

“Sounds like a joy to me, let me ask my boss Hannah!” Kahlil’s booming voice reverberated through the shop. She came running.

“Slow down dear; can I persuade you to go to dinner and hear some music tonight. I promise to behave – no whirling dervish dances or the like.”

Hannah was obviously tempted. “Well, the doctor did say that the healing of your soul was as important as the healing of your body, so perhaps this will be good thing. We will be home early?”

“Definitely,” promised Art. Hannah went back to dealing with customers, and Art offered, “Can I get you some cold juice out of the refrigerator?”

“Hah, you know my pleasures,” laughed Kahlil. The two friends sat sipping cherry juice and Art explained that tonight the great James Carter, an American saxaphonist, would be playing at the club doing an all John Coltrane tribute.

“Coltrane is my favorite. He was the most amazing and spiritual saxaphone player. He’s also from my hometown in North Carolina. In honor of your coming home I have brought you some music John Coltrane’s Ballads. Can I play it while we talk?”

“By all means,” said Kahlil. “The player is over there on the bookshelf.”

Art slipped the cassette into the slot, pressed the play button, and immediately the soothing tones of “Say it (Over and Over Again)” came through the speakers. Art turned the volume to a level where the music could be appreciated with the conversation. Art had remembered that Kahlil only had an antiquated cassette recorder so he had bough the cassette after looking a long time for the right one on Ben Yehuda St.

“So, will your business pick up again?”

“I suppose so,” said Kahlil. “It will take some time. When you are closed too long your competition gains the upper hand. But just in the last few hours several old friends Jews, Christians, Palestinians have come in and made a point of buying something. They heard about my adventure, and Hannah says we have already had a full day’s worth of sales. Imagine that!”

“As one of my friends likes to say, ‘God is good, all the time.’”

“Yes, if only people were as well, it would be a happier world.”

“Kahlil, I realize this is a difficult subject, and you must forgive me for asking, but in my prayers I’m concerned for Hannah. Is she alright? She clings to you. She needs a few more friends. Is Sarah her only other friend?”

“Sarah is a wonderful girl, but very busy at the Porch. Believe me, many times I have encouraged her to have a life of her own, but it actually hurts her feelings when I say anything. She feels like I am hinting I don’t want her around any more, which is the opposite of the truth. It’s just I want her to be happy, even when I am long gone.”

“She is the ultimate faithful daughter. I’ll keep praying for her.” After about another thirty minutes of cordial chat, Art rose to go, saying, “I have one errand to run before we go out tonight. Harry has a nice rental car that is bigger than my car, so he and I will come by and collect you after a while. It will be fun, but please if you get weary, you will tell us, and we can come home early.”

Kahlil assured, “If the music is this soothing and pleasant, I may just fall asleep at the club!”

Art left quietly, smiling at Hannah as he went by. He walked out into the market to find a shop that sold Turkish Delight, a confection rather like gum drops only in inch-square cubes. “The rosewater flavored kind please,” said Art who knew that Amelia especially loved this sweet treat. Art was thinking maybe this might smooth over some of the bumpy spots between Grace and her mother. Dinner Tuesday night had been a bit strained. But tonight was a night to celebrate – the successful press conference and Grace’s birthday!

When he arrived at Grace’s apartment he saw the red Mazda parked in its usual spot. He could also hear chatter coming from the open kitchen window on the second floor. Grace and her mother were in animated discussion about something, hopefully not her love life again.

Art hid the candy and a card behind his back, and rang the doorbell. “Who is it?” called Grace through the speaker.

“Oh, nobody special,” teased Art. The buzzer went off. Art entered, climbed the stairs, and met Grace waiting at the door. Upon entering, Camelia came out of the kitchen. She liked Art, though of course she thought, ‘If only he was a good Jewish boy and not a goy.”

Art began cheerfully, “Miss Camelia, thank you again for dinner last night. But I must tell you, your daughter did a splendid job at the press conference today – and on her birthday no less! Anyway, I have brought a little something for you two to share.” He produced the box of Turkish Delight. Camelia immediately melted and Grace smiled a wry grin and wagged her finger at Art and said “You!” He then produced a card from behind his back. He had practiced a little speech: “You know what W. C. Fields once said about birthdays?”

“No, but I have a feeling I am about to find out,” smiled Grace.

“Be careful , too many of those things can kill you!” Grace burst out laughing, and Camelia stifled a giggle as well.

“Now I first have to show you, Camelia, the card that Grace got me for my last birthday. Yes, I saved it!” The front cover had a picture of an ancient papyrus with

a broken jar next to it. Inside, the card read, “Good news, we found your birth certificate!”

“Here, Grace, this card’s for you,” said Art.

The outside of the card pictured a beautiful sunset on the sea of Galilee. There was a small boat sailing on the sea which seemed to be gliding off into the west. Grace opened the card and read the following: Inside he had written, “Others age with grace, but you are grace personified. Happy Birthday. Every Blessing, Art.”

Grace looked up, and in a rare vulnerable moment gave her mother and Art both a hug. Art felt led to say, “Now listen you too, eat the Turkish Delight and maybe it will help you be sweeter to each other.” They both nodded as they stuffed their mouths with the first pieces of the rosewater flavored treat.

“Time to hit the road, birthday girl. We have some celebratin’ to do! We are going to the jazz club with some special guests! I’ll let you be surprised later.” Art waved goodbye to Camelia who was hanging out the window, and Grace waved as well.

“You are such a smoothy,” said Grace. “How did you know things had been bumpy at home?”

“Men’s intuition,” said Art in a sassy voice. They road off to pick up Harry and the el Saids for a night on the town. Sammy would join them if work allowed. Healing and mending come in many forms. As Shakespeare once said, “Music soothes the savage breast.” Even Officer Shimon, who had trialed them to the club, relaxed and enjoyed the music!


Sammy Cohen was a man on fire working late into the night. That same day, St. James rose to the occasion, pushing the paperwork and cutting through the red tape all day. Hopefully, by Friday the Swiss bank assets of Stone – wherever he was – would be frozen. At eight o’clock, Sammy got a surprising phone call from Levi Shimon. Stone’s real passport had been used to leave Monaco that very afternoon. At nine o’clock, Sammy got a shocking phone call from Avi Hoffner. Patrick Stone himself had tried to call Ray Simpson. He had already learned that Stone had been in the south of France.

Despite the late hour, Cohen couldn’t resist. He personally visited Ray Simpson, still sulking behind bars. Sammy and Officer Shimon relayed the news that it was only time now before Stone would be brought back to Jerusalem. If Ray was willing to co-operate there could be a lighter sentence for him, perhaps even parole. Simpson seemed amenable for the first time to talk deal.


Art was sitting at home in front of his computer. He realized that if he was going to really make an impact with his press conference next week he must marshal his evidence as judiciously as possible. Too much of the academic world had closed their minds to the concept of miracles a long time ago. It was an odd phenomenon though. Academics pretended to be broad minded or open to new ideas, but in fact most people, including himself, were committed to their own presuppositions and interpretations.

Art learned long ago that fundamentalism was not a theological position, it was a mindset. There could be fundamentalist liberals who shut out the concept of miracles on an a priori basis. He had studied the arguments. “Such things don’t happen now, and so they have never happened.” Or, worse still, “Since I have never experienced a miracle, miracles can’t happen.” Of course, at the other extreme are fundamentalist conservatives who rarely entertain the notion that anything natural can happen without a miracle. Thus, their emphasis on literal seven day creationism over any sort of natural evolution.

Anachronism, the reading back into the Bible modern interpretations, is just as much a sin of fundamentalist liberals as of fundamentalist conservatives. How then was Art going to present the truth about Lazarus’ resurrection in a winsome way without turning off most of his audience? How could he inform the people without sounding like he was preaching to them in a condescending way? In fact, if he was perceived as preaching, he could be in hot water with the Israeli law which forbade proselytizing of Jews and other non-Christians. He wanted to do something that glorified God and edified human beings, even unbelievers. He did not want to be obnoxious for Jesus.

Art took a few minutes just to pray through this situation. He began to see a way forward. He would talk first about the rise of the concept of resurrection in early Judaism, and how widely the idea was believed by Pharisees and other early Jews. He would stress the Jewishness of the idea. Yes, this was the right approach in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was going to hear a lot of interesting things in the next few weeks.

Returning to the kitchen, Art fetched two glasses of sherry – a night cap.

He handed one to Harry and they sat reminiscing about the great concert Wednesday night. Harry admitted he was feeling better about his relationship with Sammy Cohen. The phone rang at ten-thirty it was Sammy.

“I know it’s late Art – if you were planning on sleeping, this news won’t help!” he began laughing. “Patrick Stone tried to contact Raymond tonight. Your friend Grayson handled the call just fine. But there’s more – We’ve been looking in England – that’s the last time his real passport was used, but now we have word he has been somewhere in Monaco and the south of France as well. We are closing in.”

“Wow, Monaco!” exclaimed Art. “I must admit, the guy has good taste! Thanks for the news. What’s next?”

“The long, slow process of searching the area, hoping he doesn’t fly off again, and getting extradition papers for France and Monaco.”

“Sounds complicated. It’s late. You must be exhausted. I’ll check with you tomorrow.” Both men signed off.

Art turned to Harry, “The snowball is rolling faster down the hill, and it’s surely going to melt soon!”

“Yes,” said Art, “but the question is, am I going to be entangled in this prosecution or extricated from it, since I had nothing to do with this theft and sale of the stone?”

“Patience,” said Harry, “things have a way of working out.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not one of my virtues,” sighed Art.

1 comment:

larysa said...